Shantanu Maheshwari’s last outing, with Alia Bhatt in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, was much appreciated last year. And now, the actor is all set for his upcoming romantic-fantasy-drama-thriller, Tooth Pari – When Love Bites, which premieres on Netflix on April 20, 2023.
The original series — created, written and directed by Pratim Dasgupta — packs a powerful cast and is set in Kolkata. It tells the story of a colony of vampires residing in the midst of the city unbeknownst to humankind, and how a beautiful and rebellious vampire with a broken canine tooth falls in love with her shy dentist when she goes to him for treatment.
The show’s magnificent ensemble cast includes Tillotama Shome, Revathi, Adil Hussain, Saswata Chatterjee, Sikandar Kher, Tanya Maniktala, Zarina Wahab, Kharaj Mukherjee, Rajatava Dutta and others.
In an exclusive chat with Zee Zest, Shantanu Maheshwari talks about the show, working with senior actors, his love for the medium and more.
This series brings together some of the country’s best actors. How was it to work with them?
It’s just amazing to be able to see them perform. The process they have and their presence is just amazing. Hats off to Pratim Sir (Dasgupta) for making it possible to get everyone on board. To see them perform and create magic on set was so inspiring and so amazing. They are very collaborative, won’t ever restrict your performance or dominate you, and they go all out to help you if you are stuck with something.
What made you say yes to a show like this?
I have not read much of the fantasy genre and have never seen any vampire shows. I just recently watched my first Harry Potter film and got introduced to the fantasy genre. When I got a call about this series, my first thought was – it might be an adaptation of Twilight or a vampire series. But when I read the synopsis, I began my homework, and I wanted to know everything about this genre. This was an original story and that’s how my interest started building. I had a Zoom call with Pratim Sir and realised that it was a different kind of storytelling. It had a very different take on vampires and that’s what made me want to do this. It’s an original story in a genre that has been so widely explored already — that made it special.
You’ve worked in television and films, and this isn’t your first stint on OTT. What do you love about this medium?
OTT gives us the liberty to explore a genre like this. It gives you the space of exploring those stories that need more than just two to three hours to showcase. It can be divided properly so that the story gets its due. Some stories need to be told in a certain manner. Overall, it is the storytelling that is important and that is something Netflix is trying to do and give liberty to different stories.
The dentist, Dr Roy, in Tooth Pari - When Love Bites, Afsaan your character in Gangubai Kathiawadi, and you, in real life – are there any similarities?
Afsaan was more confident, unlike Dr Roy who is actually a bheegi billi. He is a closeted chef and is a dentist only for his family’s sake. The love story aspect of this show and my love story in the film may be slightly similar. But I’m not much like either Dr Roy or Afsaan. I am very different from Dr Roy’s character in real life.
There are a few aspects that match though. He is also shy and an introvert — that part is me, I guess. Not being able to speak in front of girls, that part too, because initially in my life, striking up conversations with girls was a huge problem. I was very shy and extremely awkward, so I could relate to that part of Dr Roy’s character. There is the big aspect of Dr Roy being extremely respectful towards his family and his parents, and this is also something that I can completely relate to. He is quite perceptive and a bit spontaneous at times, and that is also me.
Actually, there are a few aspects of any character that I play, that I can relate to, but deep down I don’t think Dr Roy is anything like me. And that is the reason it was so much fun to play this character in Tooth Pari. There were a lot of things that I explored and a lot of things that I asked Pratim Sir. I always bombarded him with lots of questions when doing scenes. And that’s because I wanted to deliver my best to the scene.
You have been in the industry for over a decade now, but you have never been in the news for anything other than your work. Do you consciously try to keep out of media glare?
I like to keep a low profile. In general, I am an introvert, so I like to keep my personal life personal. People around me understand that. I am lucky to be surrounded by good people. I am not someone who likes to get involved in complicated and controversial situations. So, touchwood, I have been successful so far in doing that.
What are you looking forward to now?
I want to keep doing different kinds of stories and keep challenging myself by exploring different characters. I feel the more I do that, the better experience I will get, and it will help me survive for longer in this industry. That is the whole idea — to be a part of good projects, do good stories and be able to work with great storytellers.